Try to imagine Harvest Homecoming if 95% of visitors DIDN’T drive to it — or, “Why Public Transportation Works Better Outside the U.S.”

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Here’s something else I’ve been saying ever since I began visiting Europe regularly. As Jeff Gillenwater notes:

This. Until we have local leadership that recognizes and begins implementing transportation models found elsewhere, the U.S. will fall further and further behind financially, environmentally, and socially. There’s no viable, public serving reason not to do this. It’s a huge, every day social justice issue.

The problem with squeezing tens of thousands of humans into downtown New Albany for Harvest Homecoming is that virtually all of them come by car. Granted, car-pooling is more common during such a festival. But the temporary warehousing of cars is the challenge. Just imagine if there were alternatives.

Jeff mentioned local leadership.

I suppose that’s a bigger problem.

Do we have any?

Why Public Transportation Works Better Outside the U.S., by Jonathan English (CityLab)

The widespread failure of American mass transit is usually blamed on cheap gas and suburban sprawl. But the full story of why other countries succeed is more complicated.

… How did transit become such an afterthought in Americans’ transportation habits? I addressed that question in detail in an earlier CityLab piece. But to briefly summarize: Transit everywhere suffered serious declines in the postwar years, the cost of cars dropped and new expressways linked cities and fast-growing suburbs. That article pointed to a key problem: The limited transit service available in most American cities means that demand will never materialize—not without some fundamental changes …

Because it’s relatively simple.

 … The key to great transit service is not about getting 100 percent of people to ride transit for 100 percent of trips. It’s about giving people a viable choice of getting around without needing to drive.

Figuring out how to improve transit isn’t like curing cancer or inventing a quantum computer, either. There are good, viable models of transit systems that already exist in cities that look a lot like U.S ones. They are successful both at attracting riders and at being financially viable, from places that have more in common with American cities than one might expect.

In conclusion:

In some ways, the story of American transit is not so unique. Europeans and Canadians also like to drive. Their countries have also built big expressway networks. The difference is more basic, yet profound: When transit service isn’t good, few will choose to use it.

Fortunately, improving American transit doesn’t necessarily demand multi-decade, hundred-billion-dollar infrastructure projects: It can be done by better advantage of existing space and existing vehicles, and then deploying them in ways that encourage people to actually use them.

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